Behind a Viral Campaign
UCSB Wins Contest to Host Hollywood Film Premiere
Saturday, April 2, 2011
UCSB, the humble research institution that puts the college in Isla Vista’s status as a college town, will be host to a full-blown Hollywood film premiere this Friday, April 8, replete with appearances by cast members, medieval-style feasting, and three separate screenings of the film in question—Your Highness.
UCSB earned by honor by prevailing in an online competition hosted by the Web site Eventful, besting schools like Rutgers University, UC Irvine, and Santa Clara University (which came in second, third, and fourth, respectively).
While the appearance of James Franco at Storke Plaza would make any Gaucho excited, the spoils will probably be sweetest for the four students who started the viral campaign that helped make the event a reality.
UCSB students Sarah Cho, Ramin Rezvani, Paulina Cassimus, and Hilary Campbell worked as a team to help UCSB rise to number one. Going beyond merely casting their votes on the Web site, each student put in long hours to rope in voters.
Campbell was “the catalyst” for the creation of the Web campaign, according to Cho. “Hilary founded [the] Web site and sent out messages to the film list-serve. Paulina created the Facebook event and Twittered,” Cho said.
Further steps were taken by Rezvani, who, while joining the project later than the three women, also took steps to spread the word. “I called KJEE and asked if they would be willing to do a shout-out on the radio. I also contacted KEYT and the News-Press,” Rezvani said. “It was kind of difficult to get them to do anything because we’re kids.”
Rezvani also started a Facebook group urging people in his hometown of Santa Rosa to vote for UCSB in the competition (a move that was legal, as anyone could send in a vote for a school, regardless of whether or not they attend). It appears that not all the schools apparently followed the rules so precisely. “Santa Clara was [called out] for having unsavory voting practices,” Rezvani said. “I was the Facebook admin, and before that people were getting disheartened by the fact that other schools were ahead.”
More traditional ways of spreading the word were used as well. “We printed out about $100 worth of fliers,” Rezvani said.
This whole viral campaign was orchestrated during a time when other students were staring at numbers on computer screens for an entirely different reason. It was finals week. “We pulled two all-nighters in a row,” Cho said. “I have an iPhone, so even during work, I was constantly messaging people.” Rezvani, too, was distracted from his studies by conducting the viral campaign. “I could have spent 30 extra hours in the library. I was spending a lot of time on the computer, asking friends and family to vote,” he said.
According to Joe Palladino, the undergraduate advisor for the Film and Media Studies Department, UCSB’s rise in the contest was rather meteoric. “The first day they were number 67,” Palladino said. “Within 24 hours, they went to number 7. In four days they went to number 1.”
Palladino noted that the students involved in this campaign also contribute their effort and creativity to other arts-related endeavors in the community. “These students are energetic with a bunch of different other things,” he said. Cho cofounded Playwright’s Circle, which recently put on an “anti-Valentine’s Day play festival.” She is also a part of Work in Progress, an improv group. Rezvani, active in UCSB’s film department, is involved in a two-quarter class at UCSB wherein students create a short film, and where he acts as a producer.
The premiere will be held in UCSB’s Pollock Theater, a state-of-the-art venue that has only recently been completed. Winning was “kind of poetic because we just finished the Pollock Theater,” Rezvani said.
Coordinating the screenings of Your Highness—as well as the surrounding red carpet, food, and festivities—has been something of a challenge. “It all has to come together in a very short amount of time,” Palladino said. “I’ve been on the phone with Universal every couple of hours, and they have been super about it.” After finding out just last Saturday, March 26, that the event was a go, Palladino has had to deal with a massive logistical undertaking involving the police, the fire department, Associated Students, and how to feed well over a thousand guests fare that will appease both meat-eating and vegetarian students. That being said, Palladino seemed confident about Friday’s premiere.
“Everything has been running smoothly,” Palladino said.